As the cases of Covid 19 are increasing all over the world, there is a growing subdued hope that this pandemic will mark a paradigm shift in the history of mankind. No doubt there have been diseases before which have engulfed humanity, and put the human effort at the end of the tether, but this one is cataclysmic, and the menace is tangible. There was the Black Death in Europe, strong echoes of which are noticeable in William Shakespeare’s writing. There was the flu in early 20th century. However, most of them were geographically limited in their impact, but Covid 19 is hitting a globe which is now officially a village. It is circumnavigating the globe like never before. Today the enemy is invisible, and there is hardly any country which is immune from its invasion. It seems as if earth is eager to shake off human beings from its surface. That is why there is hope of a new dawn after the pandemic reaches its peak and dies away. The humanity will be compelled to think afresh about its priorities; a transformation in human consciousness is going to take place. However, there is a need to pause before letting this overly optimistic horse to race forward.
The world is trying to combat a virus, which looks a science-fiction actor let loose by the wild imagination of the author. The pharmaceutical companies are breathless in their pursuit of a medicine to defeat this enemy. Old medicines are being tried, plasma therapy is being utilised, anti-malarial hyrdroxychloroquine has been deployed, and there are numerous tips and strategies being disseminated to control the spread of the virus. Almost every medical tactic is being tried to stymy the evil march of disease. It seems as if in one go all of humanity has been transported into some dream sequence, and the bipeds are wondering whether they are dreaming, alive or dreaming of being in an altered state of reality. And there is, to quote William Blake, ‘a mark in every face I meet; Marks of weakness, marks of woe.’ While all this is going on, not all seem to care, and are busy with their own plans.
The President of the US, Mr. Donald Trump, has signed an executive order giving his country the right to mine the surface of moon. What it means is that in future (when earth will run dry of the ever-growing needs of people) the American scientists can dig into the moon surface, and bring back minerals and other materials for use in their country. He has gone a step ahead, and even set his eyes on Mars, with the same purpose. The medicines are in short supply, people are stranded in ships on the sea, people are dying like flies, there is problem of essential supplies, human beings are locked up in their homes, doctors and paramedical staff have put themselves in the line of risky duty, and all that the President is thinking of is how to transport mineral cargo from moon to earth. If moon is watching what the rich and the mighty have done to her kin, earth, she has all the more reason to beg her creator to send her further away from the evil human gaze. Further, there is already an order from the President to create a space force. I will not talk about the ‘Chinese virus’ (giving a non-living entity a race!) All of this is happening while most of the US is masked, and even young men and women are gasping for breath, and trying to catch at anything so that their lives are saved.
Here in India the fever of Tabligh is rising along with the itch and cough of Covid 19. Because of the unfortunate event at the Markaz, the virus is communalised. The community spread is communalised. The threats against its members are both veiled and open. No one seems to be willing or interested to break the carapace of hatred. If communalism was a virus, and testing was done, then the number of infected will surpass those globally infected by Covid 19. It is rampant and undisguised. Giving the virus spread a communal angle, and thus distracting the attention from stopping the disease, is evil to say the least. The highest offices of the ruling regime have sent a good message against communalising the virus, but under the same wing, poison is being spewed, making the life of a minority community dangerous. This, in the wake of the Shaheen Bagh, and the communal violence which followed. This gives an indication that the battle against the virus is also disunited, some are perceived to be collaborating with the viral enemy; with all kinds of stories being woven to carve an inside enemy aiding in the spread of the virus. While Trump is eyeing moon to mine, others are seeking to mine the fractures among communities, to give a long leash to their careers. These are investments of a different category.
And I dare not mention the internet speed in Kashmir, which is on crutches; stumbling, rising, falling and then back on the limp. It might gain speed equal to the rest of the world, when people bend backwards to please the operators. It was hit by Covid 370, and continues to be on ventilator since August last year, and perhaps even before.
So, what gives the hope that the future will be any different from the past? Even in the midst of the Covid 19 crisis, the old selfish and inhumane behaviour is refusing to die. What will happen when the threat is over, and we are back to our routine lives? And, remember, something similar happened in the past. WWI did not prevent Atom Bomb from being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. WWII did not prevent the bloodshed in Palestine, incited in many ways by nations involved in WWII. What goes now, amid the raging Covid 19, does not give hope of a post-pandemic idyll free of narrow loyalties and petty national prejudices. The future is no less bleak than it was after WWI and WWII; one can only hope the collective mnemonic self keeps pandemic past in mind for a good future.